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REN21 Renewables Global Status Report

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

REN21 ‒ which describes itself as a global community of renewable energy actors from science, academia, governments, NGOs and industry ‒ has released its annual Renewables Global Status Report.1

The report finds that the growth of renewables (including hydro) amounted to a record 201 gigawatts (GW) in 2019, with the end-of-year total standing at 2,588 GW. The report states:

"For the fifth year in a row, net additions of renewable power generation capacity clearly outpaced net installations of fossil fuel and nuclear power capacity combined. … In most countries, producing electricity from wind and solar PV is now more cost effective than generating it from new coal-fired power plants. These cost declines have led to record-low bids in tendering processes, which became even more common during the year."

The contrast between renewables and nuclear could hardly be more striking: 201 GW of new renewable capacity in 2019 compared to nuclear's net decline of 0.6 GW.2

Renewables reached a record 75% of net additions of power generating capacity in 2019, continuing a 5-year pattern of renewables outpacing all other power sources combined. Solar PV accounted for a record 115 GW of the 201 GW of renewable capacity additions, with solar PV capacity amounting to 627 GW by the end of 2019. Wind power saw its second largest annual increase, with 60 GW of new capacity bringing the total to 650 GW (including 29 GW of offshore wind).

Renewables accounted for an estimated 27.3% of global electricity generation by the end of 2019 according to the REN21 report. By contrast, nuclear accounts for barely 10%.

Total new investment in renewable power and fuels was at least US$316.7 billion in 2019. Global investment in renewables has exceeded US$200 billion every year since 2010. Investment in renewables in 2019 was more than 20 times greater than nuclear power investments of US$15 billion. Renewables accounted for 75% of investments in power capacity, gas 11.9%, coal 9.3% and nuclear 3.8%. Developing and emerging economies outweighed developed countries in renewable energy investments for the fifth year running, reaching US$152 billion.

The renewable energy sector employs around 11 million people worldwide according to the REN21 report.

Beyond the electricity sector

While the growth of renewable electricity generation is impressive, it needs to expand more rapidly to limit climate change. The REN21 report notes that although energy-related greenhouse gas emissions remained stable in 2019, the world is not on track to limit global warming to well below 2 °C, let alone 1.5 °C, as stipulated in the Paris Agreement.

Beyond the electricity generating sector, there's not much to cheer about. The REN21 report states:

"Shares of renewables in electricity generation continued to rise around the world. In some countries, the share of renewables in heating, cooling and transport also grew, although these sectors continued to lag far behind due to insufficient policy support and slow developments in new technologies. This resulted in only a moderate increase in the overall share of renewables in total final energy consumption (TFEC), despite significant progress in the power sector. As of 2018, modern renewable energy (excluding the traditional use of biomass) accounted for an estimated 11% of TFEC, only a slight increase from 9.6% in 2013."

Rana Adib, REN21’s Executive Director, said:

“Year after year, we report success after success in the renewable power sector. Indeed, renewable power has made fantastic progress. It beats all other fuels in growth and competitiveness. Many national and global organisations already cry victory. But our report sends a clear warning: The progress in the power sector is only a small part of the picture. And it is eaten up as the world’s energy hunger continues to increase. If we do not change the entire energy system, we are deluding ourselves.”


1. REN21, 'Renewables 2020 Global Status Report',

2. IAEA,

See also World Nuclear Association, 3 Jan 2020, 'Reactor shutdowns outweigh start-ups in 2019',